Horns’ second-half comeback attempt falls short


Elisabeth Dillon

Missouri guard Phil Pressey reaches for the basket through J’Covan Brown and Jonathan Holmes in the Tigers’ 67-66 victory over the Longhorns at the Erwin Center Monday night. Texas used a 13-2 run to take a one-point lead in the final minute but its furious comeback attempt fell just short.

Austin Laymance

The Texas Longhorns didn’t have an answer to Missouri’s Michael Dixon, and the No. 4 Tigers thwarted another late comeback attempt by UT.

Dixon ended a furious second-half rally by Texas with a game-winning layup as Mizzou fought off the Longhorns to win, 67-66, on Monday night at the Frank Erwin Center. Dixon finished with a game-high 21 points and burned the Longhorns all night with hot shooting off the bench (nine of 10 from the field).

“When we needed to get a stop, we didn’t do it,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.

J’Covan Brown gave Texas (13-9, 3-6 Big 12) hope for its first signature win of the season with a bank shot that put UT ahead, 66-65, with 44 seconds to play. But Dixon responded with his biggest basket of the night and the Longhorns watched as another close game didn’t go their way. Texas fell to 0-7 in games decided by six points or less.

“I was just trying to bait him into a jump shot but he took it (to the basket) and you have to give credit to him,” Brown said.

Brown finished with 20 points on 18 shots. The junior guard typically takes the final shot with the game on the line, but Brown was triple teamed on the Longhorns’ ultimate possession and he found Myck Kabongo in the corner for an open look that fell short.

“Once he gave it up, we didn’t want J’Covan to get the ball back, because he’s deadly,” said Missouri guard Kim English.

Kabongo and Brown thought Missouri committed a foul on the last possession but there was no whistle.

“He hit me but it’s not up to us to make calls,” Kabongo said. “We can’t control that stuff. J’Covan did a good job of finding me and I need to capitalize.”

Barnes said that Big 12 director of officials Curtis Shaw told him after the game that Kabongo was fouled on the play.

The Longhorns outscored Mizzou 11-4 over the final three minutes but it wasn’t enough and Texas lost for the fifth time in the last six games.

Kabongo initiated the final push for Texas with a 3-pointer that pulled UT within five, 63-58, before adding a pair of late free throws. The freshman finished with 10 points but had three turnovers against one assist. Texas assisted on five of 24 baskets and had 13 total turnovers.

“We just stood around and didn’t drive gaps like we needed to,” Barnes said.

Missouri (20-2, 7-2) held Texas to two of 12 shooting from beyond the arc and used a zone defense to keep the Longhorns out of the lane. Texas owned a 38-26 rebound advantage and scored 38 points in the paint, but the Longhorns’ size advantage wasn’t enough to deny Dixon and the Tigers.

Texas has lost its last four games by margins of one, three, four and five points.

“For some reason they’re just not turning into wins right now,” Kabongo said.

Mizzou head coach Frank Haith improved to 2-0 against his former employer. Haith was an assistant under Barnes from 2001-04.

“He’s got a tremendous offensive team,” Barnes said. “They spread you out and they’ve got a guy inside (Ricardo Ratliffe) that does a really good job.”

Ratliffe finished with 13 points and three rebounds. The junior forward had a key dunk with 1:47 left to push the Mizzou lead to 65-60. The Longhorns did a good job defending the nation’s leader in field goal percentage but a defensive lapse cost them late.

The Tigers made 16 of 27 shots in the second half (59 percent) and went four of six from beyond the arc. Dixon led the charge with two early 3-pointers as Mizzou jumped out to an 11-point lead to start the half.

Still, Texas fought its way back in the end but came up just short, leaving Brown to wonder about the team’s chances for an NCAA tournament bid. Without a signature win to date, the Longhorns’ chances for a 14th consecutive trip to the Big Dance continue to narrow.

“I just got to find other ways to help us get wins and the last couple of games I haven’t,” Brown said. “I will figure it out. No matter what, I will.”

Printed on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 as: Horns squander shot at signature win